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November 3, 2009

Note Books - Lisa Berlin (Jookabox)

The Note Books series features musicians discussing their literary side. Previous contributors have included John Darnielle, John Vanderslice, and others.

Jookabox (formerly Grampall Jookabox) releases its third album, Dead Zone Boys today, a zombie-love rock opera.

In her own words, here is the Note Books entry from Jookabox's Lisa Berlin:

This same time last year I started reading about this magical place where this magical family had a magical farm. "I'm going to do this one day," I said the whole time I was reading, and the next spring I planted strawberries and lavender as a start and I think I'll save up some nerve and money for chickens. The book is called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and it's about what I think I'd like to do one day when money stops leaking out of my pockets and real land collects underneath my real house. Right?

It's the story of one year - on a large, hilly piece of land in Virginia where the author's family of four chore-lovers planted and raised the only food they'd eat for 365 days (with occasional locally produced supplements like flour and lamb - though they did raise their own poultry). Everything was organic and chemical free, a daily commitment of all four of them to weed and trim and water together. They took a lot of walks around it all, keeping tabs on its health by peeking under leaves and scooping up little handfuls of soil to smell, observing the bird-to-insect ratios and outsmarting the deer and rabbits. The work began well before the first meal of homegrown produce was served marking the beginning of the experiment. They had to plot out the plots and cook up some good composts, order their weird heirloom seeds from reputable internet stores and gather a lot of advice from books and neighbors. The first things to green up and arrive, though, were the asparagus. And if you make it to that part of the book, you will probably finish it. I don't think I'm dull or anything, but I did have a really good time reading about asparagus. She sells you right here on why homegrown food is better than grocery store food. It tastes better right when you pick it and is way less icky than the sticky, trucky, rubber-banded stuff with countries on its stickers that you know it'd cost an assload to mail a banana to. I'd heard eating local honey helps cure pollen allergies, but I hadn't put together that the French survive into glamorous old age smoking cigs and drinking wine and eating rich foods because they don't import everything they eat raw nor would they stuff their dainty desserts with freak corn and fake sugar. You're not really a snob when you've got dirt under your nails, and I'm not thinking about having perfect health until I'm 115, but I would love an occasion to swipe a grape from a vine in my 80's wearing tattered velvet and tell a toddler it's my eye.

My grandmother's place was on a large mountain in West Virginia and as kids we'd visit a lot. They had a small vegetable garden, and some vines, fruit trees, and berry bushes. And this stuff was sprinkled here and there around the edges of giant woods and the big, mossy boulders we'd play on. So we'd play and then we'd pick snacks and go back to playing. Sometimes a berry's sour, and sometimes it's sweet. We'd accidentally eat a bug now and then or get stung by a bee pollinating a flower (not quite yellow jackets drinking cokes). There were poisonous snakes and happy dogs and frogs called "Peep-a-Deeps." Up top of the property was a huge cow pasture where we'd find bleached cow bones and terrorize ghosts dressed up in ground pine. Everything was bigger than us, the smaller things outnumbered us. So when we ate (and it wasn't always freshly picked, sometimes it was from the nearest grocery store more than a few miles down the highway) we did feel somewhat cunning to have got it, and yet humble to feel it all still growing outside in the dark. One time I saw a pig being butchered, not walking into a "sterile" factory, but walking down a dirt path at Carriage Hill Farm in Ohio. They were having a little festival and had slaughtered a pig which was hanging in a tree curing or something, split right down the middle like a Frances Bacon painting in the shade. I stared and felt strange and grossed out, but a few hours later I poured a bowl of ham and bean soup (presumably a different pig) and decided I still enjoyed it. And that became a little goal of mine, a challenge I'd like to do, if I can raise an animal, watch its birth and one day kill it all by myself, and eat, well I suppose I'm without question truly omnivorous. These things are probably what made this book make sense to me, my deep-down longing for a closer connection to my food. The tit, not the bottle, so to speak.

I'm not surprised to see the book on people's shelves when I stay in their living rooms on tour. More and more I see seedlings in windowsills and beans crawling up lattices by their porches where there used to be cigarette butts. It's getting to be pretty chic to pull a ceramic bowl of odd-shaped tomatoes into the kitchen to snack on. It's not like Subway was the first to discover how great it feels to "Eat Fresh," but it seems like people are starting to get the sense that there's fresher than that. And any little pad of soil, even a pot next to a futon, can grow really fresh food. To eat. Just like that.

Jookabox links and free and legal mp3s:

Jookabox MySpace page
Jookabox page at Asthmatic Kitty

"Phantom Don't Go" [mp3] from Dead Zone Boys
"You Cried Me" [mp3] from
"The One Thing" [mp3] from Ropechain
"The Girl Ain't Preggers" [mp3] from Ropechain

also at Largehearted Boy:

Previous Note Books submissions (musicians discuss literature)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
Soundtracked (directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
52 Books, 52 Weeks


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